TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel is working to integrate all four layers of its indigenously developed intercepting systems into a single National Command and Control Center, an effort that U.S. officials say will benefit not only U.S. forces in the region, but even allies with no diplomatic ties to the Jewish state.
The latest upgrades to the U.S.-Israel jointly funded Green Pine early warning radar and Citron Tree command-and-control system will support a unified Upper Tier network consisting of Israel’s operational Arrow-2 missile interceptor and smaller and more agile Arrow-3, now in development.
In parallel, Israel’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) recently launched development of a Lower Tier command-and-control network that integrates shooters and supporting subsystems associated with the jointly funded David’s Sling, now in development and Iron Dome, a short-range anti-rocket intercepting system initially deployed earlier this year.
“Everything is going to be connected into the same national command network, but to operate the systems, we’ll have an Upper Tier mode and a Lower Tier mode,” a senior MoD official said.
He noted that the two operational systems will be connected with one another and to U.S.-deployed forces through Link 16, with David’s Sling — particularly its Golden Almond command-and-control system — serving as the gateway, of sorts, for real-time interconnectivity.
“There is a mode of operation where David’s Sling will serve as part of our multilayered network against the ballistic missile threat. For that, we’re developing a layer of connectivity that will allow it to happen,” the official said.
Israel recently marked a decade since deployment of the U.S.-Israel Arrow-2. The planned exoatmospheric Arrow-3 is slated to go on line by 2014.
By that time, Israel is expected to operate five distinct, yet overlapping layers of anti-missile and anti-rocket missile systems, four of them indigenously developed with significant U.S. funding. They include: Iron Dome for threats up to 70 kilometers; David’s Sling for ballistic and cruise missiles launched from distances of up to 300 kilometers; upgraded versions of the U.S.-developed Patriot Advanced Capability interceptor; and the Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 interceptors designed to work as a package against raids of long-range Shahab-class ballistic missiles and other advanced threats, primarily from Iran.
Whole Greater Than Its Parts
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA), said the integrated, multilayered command-and-control network that Israel plans to deploy will also bolster the ability of the United States and partners in the region to defend against the common Iranian missile threat.
In an interview June 9, the MDA chief said that all benefit from the exercises, tests, hundreds of simulations and actual hardware funded under the bilateral U.S.-Israeli program. “It’s really just a matter of geometry and geography,” O’Reilly said
He explained: “When a missile is coming straight at you, and you’re trying to shoot it down it’s the hardest possible geometry to defend against since the missile appears on radar as a small circle that is difficult to track. But if you are tracking a missile’s trajectory from the side or from any other angle, you are looking at a much bigger image. So your radar tracks it sooner and it’s an easier image to hit. Literally your neighbor is often in a better position to intercept than you are.
“So we work with Israel and we work with all our partner countries to set up those geometries in a way that you have multiple opportunities to intercept a missile heading toward us or one of our partners.”
Because of the clear and present threat to Israel and the decades in which Israel and the United States have been working the missile defense issue, Israel is uniquely positioned to contribute added value to Washington’s international cooperative program, which O’Reilly said now numbers 20-plus partner nations.
“The U.S. missile defense relationship that is most mature is the one we have with Israel. With Israel, we have a highly integrated program from a requirements and architecture point of view. And it’s evident that our system works well with theirs and vice versa,” he said. O’Reilly said MDA has been able to extrapolate lessons learned from the bilateral U.S.-Israeli program and apply them to other ongoing and planned international programs.
As an example, he cited joint efforts to integrate multiple layers when faced with salvo missile attacks.
“Israel has multiple layers and Israel is very good at exploring the many challenges that arise during multiple [enemy] launches. Let’s say there are two incoming missiles and you intercept one. Well, that second missile continues on, but you just created debris that the lower tiers have to look through while planning to intercept the missile that’s still a threat. We exercise, research and test these scenarios often with Israel and find ways to technically solve those issues … and the lessons that stem from these efforts benefit us all.”
Yet another benefit of the bilateral program is the data generated from joint tracking of Iranian and other threats. O’Reilly said the U.S. AN/TPY-2 radar deployed in Israel, along with Israel’s own missile defense radars and supporting sensors, provide enhanced understanding of the types of threats facing the U.S. and other forces in the region.
“It’s very difficult to conduct a long-range missile test and be discreet. By placing our radar in Israel, we get to track missile activities in that region of the world. We collect a significant amount of data … and when testing is done with missiles in neighboring countries, the radar data we collect benefits Israel, the United States and our other international partners … But beyond the [threat assessment] data, every time we track something, it gives us opportunity to exercise the U.S.-Israel interfaces … and all this put together elevates our confidence that it’s all going to work well together in combat,” O’Reilly said.